- "Watch out kid, this thing handles like a drunken bantha."
- ―Han Solo, as he piloted an AT-AT
Banthas were a species of large, hairy mammals with sharp, spiraling horns. They inhabited the desert planet Tatooine, though they were bred on many worlds throughout the galaxy. They were social herd animals, and were often domesticated, and used prominently, by Tusken Raiders as mounts and companionship—though they never killed them for their food or hide, a use utilized by many other species for products such as bantha steak, butter, clothes, or furniture.
Biology and appearance
- "Hello, Nara, you're looking well today."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi
Banthas were large, quadrupedal mammals that averaged in height 2 to 2.5 meters. An adult's average weight was 4,000 kilograms, and they had extensive shaggy fur, which was brown or black in color. Both females and males of the species had a pair of spiraling horns that extruded from their skull and grew at a knob a year. Banthas possessed a wide mouth, bright, inquisitive eyes, and a large tail which dragged on the ground as they walked. They had wide, flat feet with four digits.
- "What's the matter, Dolo? Why so sad?"
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi
Banthas were easily domesticated, and were bred on many worlds throughout the galaxy. They were widely used as mounts. Their milk, which was distinctively blue, was drunk plain as well as being used in yogurt, ice cream, and butter. Their meat was used for dried jerky, steak, and burgers, and their dung was used as a fuel. Bantha-blood fizz was a sparkling drink made from purified bantha blood. Bantha hide could be mashed with grains to make Ardees, also known as Jawa juice. Their hide was also tanned and turned into clothes or furniture. Young banthas were known as calves.
The Tusken Raiders of Tatooine tamed and domesticated banthas, and they shared a close, almost mystical bond. Every boy had a male bantha and every girl had a female one. When Sand People married, their banthas also mated, and, should its rider die, their bantha usually perished shortly after. If a bantha died before its rider, its remains were placed in a large graveyard, which was treated with great respect by Tuskens and other banthas. Tuskens never harmed or ate banthas, though they rode the creatures into battle. Tusken raiders were known to ride their banthas in single file to leave few tracks in order to conceal their numbers. In Tusken, the B'Thazoshe Bridge was named after banthas; "B'Thazoshe" translated to "bantha horn turned to stone" in Basic.
Banthas in the galaxy
A common sight on Tatooine, banthas could be found wild, wandering the vast expanse of the Tatooine desert, or domesticated, under the ownership of Tuskens or in cities such as Mos Espa. They shared their name with the White banthas of Nelvaan.
Banthas were the subject of several slang phrases and insults. "Bantha fodder" (or "Bantha poodoo" in Huttese) was a phrase used as the equivalent of "worthless"; a person or thing deemed to have no value beyond something for a bantha to graze on, because of bantha food's unpleasant smell. "Not give two bantha ticks" (about something) meant to not care in the slightest (about something or someone), "Son of a bantha" was an insult, and "A wild bantha chase" meant a futile errand.
In 20 BBY, an LAAT/i gunship featured customized nose art of a flying bantha dropping a pair of bombs. During the same year, the rebels of Onderon owned a hunter cart with a bantha skull.
By 5 ABY, Malakili, a former beastmaster for Jabba the Hutt, wore a lucky braid of bantha teeth and fur. Later in the same year, former slave Cobb Vanth had enlisted the help of a group of Tusken Raiders to drive a criminal syndicate called the Red Key Raiders away from Tatooine. The Tuskens rode into battle atop banthas. One such bantha was particularly large. The animal had an eye scarred over, fur matted with filth, and wounds with open bones and rusted gears.
Behind the scenes
The word 'bantha' or at least other words resembling the term, first appeared in The Star Wars: Rough Draft, where a Sith Lord was called—or had the call sign—"Banta Four." The Star Wars: First Draft, written in early 1974, introduced "Banta One" as a Rebel fighter during the attack on the Death Star. Banthas as a creature were first mentioned in the third draft of the film: Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars, dated August 1975, as "monstrous banthas" ridden by a group of savage desert nomads called the Tusken Raiders. Their attack on Luke after he spotted the beasts of burden, as happens in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, was also included. Early concept art from Ralph McQuarrie imagined banthas to be played by horses, so the earliest imaginations of banthas are considerably smaller.
For banthas' first canon appearance in A New Hope, They were played by Mardji, a 22-year-old female Asian elephant. It took six crew members to make Mardji a costume that would fit her and that she would tolerate. The costume's base was a howdah, or elephant saddle, with added palm fronds to create the shaggy coat of a bantha. They then added a special head mask that was molded from chicken wire and then sprayed with foam to give it the correct shape. The dangling hairs on the underside of the bantha's mouth were made from horse hair and flexible home ventilation tubing was the base for the curving horns. While the weight of the mask for the costume was cause for concern, it was actually the shaggy tail that was made from wood and covered with thick thistles that took some getting used to for Mardji. Despite her training, Mardji's trunk would occasionally pop out of her costume, but the cast and crew, including George Lucas, liked Mardji too much to get impatient. To get the shot of the two banthas that Luke spots, they used an effect called optical compositing. The moan-like sounds that the banthas make were bear noises slowed down by sound designer Ben Burtt. They were given to him by documentary producer George Casey.
The bantha tied up outside the Chalmun's Spaceport Cantina exteriors filmed in Ajim, Djerba, Tunisia on April 2–3, 1976 was an over-sized prop for two crew members with rudimentary controls for movement. As he was wont to do, Mark Hamill asked and received permission from the prop crew to climb inside it with a small flashlight. The head was moved up and down with a crowbar handle held in both hands, and a way to swish the tail about. The interior surface was papier-mâché, including a complete newspaper review reportedly titled "David Bowie live in Paris" oriented sideways, which Hamill ended up reading in its entirety.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "Duel of Destiny" (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "The Tower of Alistan Nor" (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "The Pit and the Pinnacle" (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "A Perilous Rescue" (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "Escape from Coruscant" (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Notes and references
- Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know
- Ultimate Star Wars
- Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
- Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice
- Aftermath: Empire's End
- Star Wars: Complete Locations
- Pirate's Price
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
- Poe Dameron: Flight Log
- Star Wars (2015) 5
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "The Citadel"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "A War on Two Fronts"
- Star Wars (2015) 20
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates the Battle of Endor to 4 ABY and further dates Shara Bey and Kes Dameron's move to Yavin 4 in 5 ABY. The move is placed six months after the Battle of Endor by Before the Awakening. Since Aftermath: Life Debt is set just after Shadow Fall, which takes place around six months after the battle, the events of Life Debt must also occur in 5 ABY, around six months after the Battle of Endor.
- Aftermath: Life Debt
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas places the Battle of Jakku in 5 ABY. Since the events in Aftermath: Empire's End occur prior, during and after the battle of Jakku, the novel can be dated to 5 ABY.
- "Mark Hamill in Conversation with Frank Oz" @ 57:21 YT:92nd Street Y